WASHINGTON (JTA) — Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. accused President Donald Trump of “politicizing” the deadly attack in New York after Trump blamed Schumer for the immigration program that purportedly allowed in the attacker.
“I have always believed and continue to believe that immigration is good for America,” Schumer, he Senate minority leader, said in a statement on Wednesday. “President Trump, instead of politicizing and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, should be focusing on the real solution — anti-terrorism funding — which he proposed cutting in his most recent budget.”
Trump had on Twitter on Wednesday morning repeated a report that Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbekistan citizen suspected in the attack that killed eight people in Lower Manhattan, had obtained a Green Card, or residency status, in 2010 through the so-called “Diversity Visa” lottery program. The report has yet to be confirmed.
“The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty,” Trump tweeted. “I want merit based.”
Schumer helped author the lottery system when he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in the early 1990s. Originally, it was tailored for potential Irish immigrants, but eventually expanded to other countries, including Israel. More recently, he has been a leading advocate of replacing the system with the merit-based system Trump apparently prefers.
In remarks Wednesday on the Senate floor, Schumer appeared furious with Trump, contrasting the president’s approach with George W. Bush, who was president the last time a deadly terrorist attack hit New York City, on Sept. 11, 2001.
“Now, Mr. President, I’ve seen the tweets,” Schumer said. “After September the 11th, one of the first things that President Bush did was invite Senator [Hillary] Clinton and me to the White House, where he pledged to do whatever was in his power to help our city. President Bush, in a moment of national tragedy, understood the meaning of his high office and sought to bring our country together. President Trump, where is your leadership?”
In calling on Trump to restore terrorist funding, Schumer was referring to proposed rollbacks in Department of Homeland Security funding for programs that aim to prevent domestic terrorist attacks and attacks by “lone wolves.” Top Trump security officials have discounted the threat of “lone wolves,” saying it would be more efficient to focus on backers of terrorism.
New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said Wednesday that Saipov appears to have been inspired by “ISIS and radical Islamic tactics,” but that investigators “have no evidence yet of associations or continuing plot or associated plots, and our only evidence to date is that this was an isolated incident that he himself performed.”